About 90 minutes outside of downtown Atlanta, there’s a big open field, with a perfectly-placed New England style home situated on a hill. It shouldn’t be there, but if you turn away from the catering tent and the video village, you might just believe you’re in mid-1800s Connecticut, and that you’ve stumbled onto a home inhabited by a poltergeist.
That’s kind of the gist of the Lore podcast overall. The unassuming piece of humanity that harbors a dark secret, and the people that have to face it to continue living. This October, however, your imagination won’t be limited just to listening to Lore, but to experiencing it first hand as a brand new Amazon original series.
Podcast creator Aaron Mahnke first premiered the series in March of 2015. His series focuses on the true stories of things like the Hoosac Tunnel, serial killer H.H. Holmes and his booby trapped house, and the infamous Stanley Hotel, and even larger-than-life folklore like the Jersey Devil, Wendigos, and Krampus.
“What I love about the subject matter I get to cover in Lore, and in folklore in general, it runs the gamut,” Mahnke tells us on the set. “You’ve got the patriarchal folklore things like the creatures, vampires, werewolves, the zombies and stuff, and then you move into things like spiritualist movements and hauntings and all that element… I’m able to run the gamut of that in the podcast and this season of the show will do that as well. Which I think is great, it gives people a little taste of everything.”
Despite the various scares fans will find waiting around every corner, Mahnke strives to find the human element of these tales, grounding the horror in the people at the center of the tales and how they’ll work their way out of them, or die trying.
“I think about the stories that Stephen King tells,” Mahnke says when asked about influences for his hit podcast, which has now spawned a book series, a haunted house attraction, and the forthcoming Amazon series. “I grew up being told not to read Stephen King because he was a ‘horror writer,’ and yeah, he writes about supernatural things and there’s violence and there’s gore… but his real stories are about people in unusual circumstances and how they deal with them. And I think that’s a subconscious influence on what I do.”
Mahnke continued, pointing toward this episode of the TV series in particular, saying: “The story of the Phelp’s Mansion and what transpires in ‘Passing Notes’ is scary and it’s a drama, but it’s also this lifting back the hood on how does a family react to something going on in their lives They’re put in an unusual situation and they have to deal with it, and I probably inherit that a little bit for my love of Stephen King.”
You may think of Robert Patrick as the stone-faced T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but on this hot April day, he’s a 19th century reverend with strong convictions, a tight-knit family, a mysterious past, and the most killer pair of mutton chops you have ever seen.
“I requested these killer mutton chops,” Patrick tells me on set when I ask about them.
This particular episode of Lore is based on Episode 37 of the podcast and is titled “Passing Notes.” It tells the story of one Reverend Eliakim Phelps of Stratford, Connecticut, a man whose first wife dies unexpectedly and years later he attempts to contact her from beyond the grave, only for another spirit entirely to open the door.
“He was very much in love with this first wife who was older than him and she succombed to an illness,” Patrick explains about his character and the unusual circumstance he finds himself in. “She died and passed away in Philadelphia and I was overwrought with sadness, but I did move on and I met a younger woman, that was also a widow, and we get married. My guy is strong as his faith is but is open-minded enough to embrace new technological advancements of the time in science and is willing to unlock the door that there is a life after this that exists.”
Patrick means a séance, a spiritual ceremony that was popular at the time to attempt to speak to loved ones that had already passed. His character attempts one in the story, and things don’t go swimmingly.
“Unbeknownst to my new wife, I engage in that in our new house, and apparently I opened up a door to an evil spirit, not my ex-wife, and I have to admit to them that I am the reason we have some spirit haunting us, or terrorizing us.”
Patrick won’t cop to participating in an actual séance himself, however, but did note.
“I did do a Ouija board once, and some weird stuff kinda came through that. It was kinda freaky.”
The first season of Lore will contain six episodes, all based on different episodes of the podcast, and hails from executive producers Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) and Glen Morgan (The X-Files). Mahnke recalls roughly two dozen different production companies vying for the television rights to the podcast, but Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment was the right home for it.
“I love ‘Lore,’ it’s close to the vest for me. It’s not like I just made this thing and I want to exploit it, it’s this precious thing and if we’re going to move it from audio to video, then how the format changes so it can still preserve the story is important to me… I pitched it in those meetings as ‘I want to take Lore and give it what Shyamalan did with The Village.’ The Village might be horror, but it’s really a well-paced folklore tale about community and how people react to things. It’s a personal drama with folklore at its root, that’s what ‘Lore’ is all about, it’s the humanity at the center of these dark historical text. Valhalla ticked all the boxes there.”
Fans of the podcast that are used to hearing Mahnke’s voice greet them and guide them through the story need not worry either – he’ll be bringing the dulcet tones of his voice to the series as well. Even though he’s already narrated these stories once before, he’ll be finding a way to scare you all over again.
“I’ll see tweets online of people quoting the episode they just heard. There’s a line that they really liked, and I find that it happens often enough that clearly I could go back to a podcast episode and rewrite it all over again, but there’s probably certain things that I would need to get across in the same way, and I might say them with the same words. So I think some things will resonate and some things will feel fresh. The themes are the same and the atmosphere and the tone, it’s going to feel like home.”
Lore premieres on Amazon on Friday, October 13th.
(Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Video)